Whose reality?

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:12-13

Dear members & friends of the Swedenborgian Church,

Today, I would like to begin with sharing one of my favorite stories from Zhuang-zi, the second founder of Daoism. It is about a man trying to become a dragon slayer:

Long ago, there was a wealthy young man who desired to be a dragon slayer. Thus, he spent a small fortune to search out the entire nation seeking the master teacher who could teach him how to slay a dragon. Then, when he had found the one who claimed to be able to teach such a skill, he had to pay him a small fortune. The young man studied and practiced very hard under the teacher for nine years learning how to slay dragons. After nine years, the teacher told him, “you have learned everything that I can teach!” The young man’s heart was filled with excitement from the expectation that now he would find a dragon and slay it. But soon after he faced a simple, but a very fundamental problem: dragons exist only in the human imagination!

We could take many lessons and wisdom from this short story. Two things that I would like to reflect on today are: 1. Simply because I (or you, or anyone) want something to be real, that something does not automatically become real; 2. Unless we are capable of distinguishing what is truly real and what is human fantasy, we are susceptible to the greediness and self-centeredness of others who would take advantage of our gullibility. We are very familiar with the truth that reality is essentially subjective to each individual. However, this does not mean that simply because it is real to one individual’s mind, it becomes real to everyone else, or becomes real in the physical world. In other words, the purpose of emphasizing such truth is not to empower individuals to project their subjective reality into the world, but rather to enlighten individuals that they need to overcome their subjective reality and embrace the true reality that often exists outside the subjective reality. Put simply, we need to acknowledge and realize that all thoughts and desires in our minds are of our own reality, and that the actual object, matter, or person of our desires or thoughts might not be the same as how it appears in our mind.

Overcoming one’s subjective reality, according to Jesus, can happen only through loving others. Because when you truly love someone, only one thing matters to you the most: how to make that person joyful, even if it takes your own life. This is why Jesus emphasizes in John, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Loving someone that much not only enables us to be free from selfishness and personal desires, but also opens a way to deeply satisfy one’s mind with joys and delights that never disappear.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee